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Huskies Will Face UCLA's Kelly, Not Chip Off the Old Block

The former Oregon coach returns to Husky Stadium trying to rebuild the Bruins.
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In 2009, this Pac-10 school boldly hired itself a new football coach, and not just any coach.

It handed the keys of the program to an offensive coordinator known for his playbook genius, yet someone with no head-coaching experience whatsoever at any level of the game. 

Oregon chose Chip Kelly.

Simultaneously, Washington picked Steve Sarkisian.

Same credentials, campuses 280 miles apart, each expected to put up the points.

For a moment, someone had the audacity to consider the potential shoot-outs that might emerge with these two masterminds opening up their playbooks and getting after each other. 

Ah, but a stark Sark reality set in. 

The Ducks were basking in success when they promoted Kelly after he had served as their new-age offensive coordinator for two seasons. However, the UW was merely attempting to climb out of the dumpster when it brought in its new guy from USC. 

For the next four years, Kelly's teams absolutely pounded on Sarkisian's Huskies every chance they could, beating them by 24, 37, 17 and 31 points — an average 27.5-point margin — before the Ducks leader took his extensive football acumen and headed for the NFL.

In 132 seasons of UW football, only one other head coach has been harder on the Huskies over a 48-month span. 

From 2003 to '06 of his 11-year stay in Berkeley, California's Jeff Tedford directed the Bears to victories of 47, 30, 39 and 7 points over the local ball team, winning by a whopping 30.7 on the average. The coach inflicted this repetitive damage using teams built around two fairly talented players bound for NFL greatness, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and running back Marshawn Lynch.

Tedford later made amends by joining Chris Petersen's UW staff as an offensive consultant in 2016 and helping guide that milestone Husky team into the College Football Playoff against Alabama.

Kelly, however, returns to Husky Stadium on Saturday afternoon for the first time with UCLA (4-2 overall, 2-1 Pac-12) — and for the first time in 10 years — and he's not looking to do anyone any favors. Offer any apologizes. Certainly he won't go easy on Jimmy Lake, who nonetheless admires this man's coaching contribution to the game.

"I have a lot of respect for Chip," Lake said. "He changed football, and not just college football, with a lot of schemes."

The Huskies have beaten Kelly before, but just once, topping his first Bruins team 31-24 with a Petersen-coached club in 2018, and doing it at the Rose Bowl. The Pac-12 schedule rotation and the pandemic wiped out subsequent meetings for these schools. 

Kelly, 57, comes to Seattle after spending NFL coaching stints in Philadelphia and San Francisco and finding out, same as Nick Saban and now Urban Meyer, that maybe he was destined to be just a college coach all along.

The New Hampshire native still has the same football mindset who likes to overload one side of the field, hit you with a barrage of misdirection plays and wear everyone down with an up-tempo approach.

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Media members never know what to expect from this quirky guy, who likes to cross them up, too.

Ted Miller, formerly an ESPN and a Seattle Post-Intelligencer college football writer, once described Kelly as being "funny, biting, pithy, strange, fiery and surprising when talking to reporters."

Chip Kelly speaks to media members, who videotape him.

Chip Kelly holds court at Pac-12 media day.

Kelly remains the only Pac-12 coach to take a team to the Rose Bowl in his first season.

The next year, he sent the first No. 1-ranked Oregon team onto the field when he hosted the Huskies in Eugene in 2010.

Kelly put 50 points on the board on the UW in just over two quarters, also in that second meeting.

In his third game against the UW, he ruined the last game played in old Husky Stadium with another lopsided Duck victory before the place closed in 2011 and was remodeled.

He arrived with a No. 2-ranked Oregon team for his fourth and final meeting with the UW in Eugene.

Kelly has pushed the limits on everything: his offense, opposing defenses, NCAA rules. After he left for the pros, the Ducks football program received three years of probation and scholarship reductions, but no bowl ban, for his improper use of football scouting services.

All along, the overly confident and often sarcastic Kelly spouts his Buddha-like wisdom in postgame gatherings, once suggesting, "You have to play a full 60-minute game. We preach the whole game. You don't get a trophy at halftime. You don't get a trophy after the third quarter."

Unlike his Oregon assignment that came with built-in momentum, he took over a Bruins program that was left in somewhat disarray. He replaced the fired Jim Mora Jr., the former Husky reserve linebacker and special-teams player, the son of Don James' first defensive coordinator and an NFL coach himself for the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. 

Chip Kelly confers on the UCLA sideline.

Chip Kelly confers on the UCLA sideline.

Kelly has survived the pandemic as the first of two Pac-12 football coaches known to contract COVID-19 (ASU's Herm Edwards is the other). He caught the virus early on in March 2020, after shutting down UCLA's spring football practice and well before vaccinations were offered, and he wasn't sure how he was infected.

After three extra-tough seasons in Westwood, Kelly has four wins in six outings. He boasts ample depth on both lines for the first time, an experienced and elusive quarterback in Dorian Thompson-Robinson and a productive running back in Zach Charbonnet, a California native once recruited by the Huskies and a Michigan Wolverine for a pair of seasons.

Kelly comes to town with a full playbook, ready to exploit a UW team not nearly as good as people originally thought and one that might be vulnerable to his sort of innovation. It's a reunion to be wary.

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